Warning: Manifesto ahead.
Lane Kiffin seemed like a strange hire from the start.
After all, this was a program reeling from NCAA allegations, with sanctions pending, an embattled AD and a beloved coach who had just bolted for the NFL.
What USC needed was a squeaky-clean image. What USC needed was to be above reproach. That's why Pat Haden and J.K. McKay were brought in. Those two are not just loyal Trojan alumni, they walk the straight and narrow like no duo you have ever seen before.
But before that happened, USC's first Heisman winner, embattled AD Mike Garrett, brought Lane Kiffin back to Troy.
Trojan fans tried to console themselves, telling themselves that Kiffin was a great recruiter (he is), that Ed Orgeron is a great recruiter (he is), that Monte Kiffin was a defensive mastermind (he was, 20-plus years ago). Trojan fans wished Norm Chow was a part of the equation. That was a blow that took some of the luster off the hire.
Still, the Trojan nation reminded themselves that Kiffin and Orgeron had recruited all those amazing USC teams of the Pete Carroll era. They recruited Matt Leinart, Reggie Bush and LenDale White, etc. It would be alright. It might even be epic, despite the sanctions.
Hopes were raised. Pride came back. Chests were puffed out while Trojans yelled "Fight On" and adjusted to this new reality. Uncle Pete, Big Balls Pete, was gone. Lane Kiffin had replaced him.
Trojan fans tried to convince themselves that this time, Lane would be different. USC was his dream job; surely he'd grow up a bit and toe the Trojan line. Surely he would not repeat the temper tantrums, insolence, running off at the mouth and rule breaking that had marred his tenures with both the Oakland Raiders and Tennessee Volunteers.
After all, this is USC. Shenanigans and trickery are not needed.
But somehow, Kiffin didn't get that message. His actions this season are diluting a storied program of over 100 years of football history, respect and lore.
Look, Kiffin knew the culture at USC before he accepted the head coaching gig. Trojans do not suffer fools, bad coaches or shenanigans lightly (see: Hackett, Paul and Robinson, John). Kiffin is the king of trickery. Rather than calling a decent offensive game, he has been relying on petty tricks and rule bending to attempt to get ahead.
It is not working.
USC has lost three games, and he is tarnishing the image of this great, elite program and all who truly love USC. He knows how much USC means to its students, alumni and fanbase, yet he behaves immaturely, immorally and ridiculously anyway. He simply does not seem to give a damn about the Trojan legacy.
For that, he should be truly ashamed.
From throwing fits at reporters, banning beat reporters, storming out of a post-practice press conference in a huff, switching jersey numbers to pull off a two-point conversion and now this deflated ball issue—USC fans have seen all they need to see.
Kiffin has not changed. He has not matured. He is immature, petulant and not worthy of leading the Men of Troy on the gridiron.
Other than recruiting, how has this man shown he is worthy of one of the best jobs in college football? He coasted into it on the weight of his last name; he did not earn it. He certainly didn’t show that he was ready for USC in his tenure with the Raiders or Vols.
He is a placeholder until sanctions end, the best USC could get at the time.
And he may be a monster recruiter, but the jury is out as far as developing talent. Barkley is having issues this year, and it is, in fact, my opinion that he is nursing an injury. This is a theory that the deflated football issue supports, as a deflated ball is softer and easier to throw for short passes.
Think about it: Those short screen passes are the bulk of Barkley’s game this season. And if he is, in fact, playing through injury, that’s another game that can be attributed to Kiffin’s subterfuge and trickery.
For the record, the student manager has taken full responsibility for the deflated balls and has been fired. However, I do not think for one moment he acted alone.
But let’s say he did: It is still indicative of the culture Kiffin has created at USC that a student manager would feel justified in breaking NCAA regulations to deflate the footballs—in full view of the Oregon sideline—while a program is under sanctions. USC was fined $25,000 by the Pac-12 for this trickery.
It just doesn’t add up, and it smacks of Lane Kiffin’s immature shenanigans.
The thing is, for all the issues surrounding Reggie Bush, his violations and the resulting NCAA smackdown, at no point could any detractor inside or outside of the USC program say the Trojans cheated on the field.
Now, they can.
Officially, I don’t think Kiffin should be fired. He is a monster recruiter, and the Trojans need that to carry them through the next two years of scholarship sanctions.
Truthfully, who else can bring these crazy-talented classes into Troy while under sanctions? I’ll even go so far as to say this season’s on-field shortcomings (penalties aside—another hallmark of the Kiffin culture) are due to lack of depth.
However, Kiffin needs an intelligent, strong and arrogant offensive coordinator. Why arrogant? Because to stand up to his B.S. and not allow him to run the show as he is wont to do will require such an individual.
Kiffin has too much on his plate and is failing. One more loss, and people will start to say he is failing spectacularly.
USC has not lost three games in a row since 2001. The Trojans need to turn it around this weekend, because if they lose to Arizona State, there is a very real possibility they will lose to UCLA and Notre Dame.
And then Kiffin’s seat will get very hot indeed. After all, a perfect day is when USC wins and UCLA and Notre Dame lose. A successful season is when USC beats both UCLA and Notre Dame—regardless of what else happens.
Will Lane Kiffin actually show up to coach, or will he try and play loose with the rules and further prove the Trojans are in the wrong turn lane?